Every journalist needs a toolbox. It doesn’t matter whether you work in TV, radio, online, or print. Here are some helpful tools that can turn good stories into great ones.
The SPLC is a great resource for student journalists. It’s full of information, presentations, and forms. You can generate Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA) forms, and also has good information on how to protect yourself legally as a student journalist.
This should be a must-visit every day for writers, editors, and designers. The Newseum has every front page from every newspaper across America (and others from around the world) every day. Try looking at it every day to get ideas about how to lay out pages, how to organize stories, and how to handle both large stories and slow news days.
Consider this your all-in-one journalist toolbox. It has links to, basically, everything! Newspapers, magazines, databases, maps, government agencies, stocks, investigative tools, you name it. Best of all, it’s free. It’s a good place to start, whether you’re struggling for a story idea, or want to enhance an existing story. Bookmark that page, and begin there each day.
Two great web sites showing the best photographs from around the world each day. Yahoo has great photojournalism galleries, which perfectly show photographers and editors how to tell powerful stories with pictures. Take a look at the daily photos to get a sense of how to handle composition, lighting, framing, and how to convey emotion.
It’s always good to be a student of the craft. To stay sharp as a journalist, you need to practice, just like you would anything else. That’s where Poynter comes in. The web site has some great articles about newspapers, TV news, and overall journalism technique. For a price, it also offers seminars and online training to help you hone your skills.
In Oregon, journalists are legally allowed to view public records, but sometimes those records can be hard to find. If someone is unwilling to give you the information or provide documents, you may have to submit a public records request. (Note, a public records request is a little different from a FOIA. FOIA is only for federal information). This web page allows you to input the basic information, including your name, organization, and what records you are looking for, and automatically generates a public records letter, including the correct Oregon statutes. Something to remember: there are still some legal reasons an agency cannot disclose the public records, so this form does not necessarily give you carte blanche.
Public Meetings are open to everyone, including journalists. Occasionally, though, you will find some agencies who try to limit your access to a meeting. These two links provide great information on Oregon’s Public Records and Meetings Law, including what can and cannot be limited, and what types of meetings are and activities are exempt. The second link is a legal ruling, which can be used if you are being denied entrance to a public meeting.
Guidestar allows you to research financial information for non-profit organizations, including revenue and expense data, and info on the CEO and board of directors. This is a good tool if you are investigating whether a non-profit is legitimate, or whether the money is being misused.